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Lesson Transcript

Minkyong: 안녕하세요, 여러분.
Keith: Hey, everyone. Keith here. And welcome to Part 4 of our pronunciation series. So, Minkyong, we went over a lot of things, linguistics, and these pronunciation lessons.
Minkyong: Are you talking about the magical, fantastic, super-duper ㅎ?
Keith: Supercalifragidelisticespedialicious. Oh, yes. If you missed that, that’s in Pronunciation Lesson 3, but yes, I think the magical ㅎ is about the limit, in terms of my knowledge, in linguistics.
Minkyong: But, at least, we know Korean.
Keith: Well, yes, at least. And that’s exactly what we’re here to do, teach some Korean pronunciation. So, Minkyong, we went over consonants, all through our first three lessons. What about the vowels? We’re not getting into vowels?
Minkyong: Well, why don’t we just do it in this lesson?
Keith: Only if you’ll help us out.
Minkyong: Sure, let’s do it.
Keith: Ok. Before we get started, we strongly recommend you stop by KoreanClass101.com and pick up the lesson notes for this lesson.
Minkyong: That’s because we’re going to go over some vowels in this lesson that don’t exist in English.
Keith: Exactly. So, even if you can read it, you may have trouble deciphering it from the actual audio, this audio file.
Minkyong: But, hopefully, after this lesson, our listeners will have no problem knowing what we are talking about in the audio.
Keith: So, remember to stop by KoreanClass101.com and pick up the lesson notes. Ok. So let’s move on. We’re talking about vowels in Korean. You were learning English with the vowels a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y, were they a problem for you?
Minkyong: Not really. Those vowels are pretty similar sounds as in Korean.

Lesson focus

Keith: Well, for those learning Korean, there are a few vowels that don’t have the same sounds as in English. And, what are those vowels in Korean?
Minkyong: ㅓ, ㅡ, and ㅢ.
Keith: That last one was tough. These vowels don’t have equivalents in English, so they can be pretty difficult sometimes to people who are learning Korean. Can you say those one more time, slowly?
Minkyong: ㅓ, ㅡ, and ㅢ.
Keith: Ok. So, why don’t we take a look at the first one? ㅓ. How is my pronunciation?
Minkyong: Ok. Wasn’t too bad.
Keith: That’s it? All right. So, the vowel, you do it.
Minkyong: ㅓ.
Keith: The sound if this vowel is similar to the word “but” in English. “But.” So, for those of you listening, try to say “but” slowly and really try to isolate that vowel in the middle.
Minkyong: But, 버, 버, ㅓ.
Keith: Is that the same vowel?
Minkyong: Yes, I think so.
Keith: All right. So, there’s also the word “earth” with a similar pronunciation as ㅓ. Minkyong, why don’t you give this one a shot, too? Try isolating the vowel.
Minkyong: Earth, earth, 얼, 어, ㅓ?
Keith: It’s somewhat similar.
Minkyong: Yes, well, it’s really close.
Keith: Ok. For those of you listening, try to figure it out using those English words as examples.
Minkyong: But, you know, a mistake that I usually hear is with this vowel being pronounced as ㅗ and ㅏ.
Keith: Right. Those three vowels are really similar, the vowel ㅓ is kind of in between the vowels ㅗ and ㅏ.
Minkyong: So, sometimes I hear the word 엄마, but sometimes I hear it pronounced as 옴마 or 암마.
Keith: So, I think a good way to figure out how to sound out this vowel is to use those two other vowels. When you say “ㅗ” your mouth is kind of in a circle, right?
Minkyong: And, when you say the vowel “ㅏ”, your mouth is open a bit more.
Keith: So, how about gradually moving your mouth position from ㅗ to ㅏ? And, right in the middle, you should get the correct position for your mouth when you’re trying to say the vowel ㅓ like 오어아, and then in the middle, it’s like 오어, 어어. So, listeners, why don’t you try that out at home? And, while you’re trying to do that, Minkyong, let’s go over a few common words and also sentences really quickly, that contain the vowel ㅓ. One time fast and one time slow. And, we won’t get into the translations of these words, but if you like to know the meanings, don’t forget to stop by KoreanClass101.com and pick up your lesson notes.
Minkyong: 엄마. 엄마.
Keith: All right. And, can we have a sentence?
Minkyong: 여기는 어디예요? 여기는 어디예요?
Keith: And, just to give an example of how a lot of Korean learners mistakenly pronounce this, let me try to read that sentence with the improper vowels. 요기는 오디예요? How’s my pronunciation?
Minkyong: Yes it was ok, but you can work on a little bit. But, instead of 요, to make the right sound, try to loosen your mouth a little bit. 여기는 어디예요?
Keith: That’s right. Your mouth shouldn’t be as tense as when you say ㅗ. And, just a quick personal tip if I may, you know, when you think in English, you say “Uh…”, I think that’s really similar to the vowel we’re looking at right now. What do you think? Why don’t you think right now? Uh…
Minkyong: 어. Ohhh, yes, that’s right.
Keith: A little bit, not 100% there, but somewhat similar. All right. So, let’s move on to our next vowel ㅡ. Now, this one I can tell you with 100% confidence that there is no similar vowel in English.
Minkyong: I don’t know if it’s 100% the same, but how about in the English word “eaten”? That second “e”.
Keith: “Eaten”, “eaten”, “en”, “en”. That’s pretty close, not 100% there, but I think it’s close enough that our listeners can use that to compare. The sound for this vowel is made with the side edges of your lips pulled back to the sides.
Minkyong: For this one, I hear a lot of people mistaking this word for the vowel “ㅜ”.
Keith: Ok. So, what is the vowel that we are actually looking at right now?
Minkyong: ㅡ.
Keith: And, the mispronounce version?
Minkyong: ㅜ.
Keith: Can we have those two side by side?
Minkyong: ㅡ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅜ.
Keith: All right. Let’s take a look at the topic marking particles, something that it’s used in more than half of Korean sentences.
Minkyong: There’s 은 and 는.
Keith: One more time?
Minkyong: 은, 는.
Keith: And, how do some people mispronounce it?
Minkyong: 운 and 눈.
Keith: So, for the vowel ㅡ, the one we’re looking at, the edges of your lips should be pulled to the sides. But, for the one that’s mistakenly heard as ㅜ, your lips are actually kind of out in front. So, if your lips are coming out, you might not be pronouncing this vowel correctly. And, how about we try testing it out with a sentence?
Minkyong: 저는 밥을 먹어요.
Keith: One time slowly?
Minkyong: 저는 밥을 먹어요.
Keith: And, many times, this is commonly heard as 저눈 밥울 먹어요. Ok. And, you’ll definitely want to stop by KoreanClass101.com for the review track. We only have a limited amount of time today, so we can’t have all the correct pronunciations in this audio file, but we’ll definitely have all the audio in this lesson’s review track.
Minkyong: Let’s move on to our last vowel ㅢ.
Keith: Actually, this one’s called a diphthong. I’m so smart, right?
Minkyong: Ok, you’re smart.
Keith: All right. Well, you can’t blame me for trying. That… Basically means, that word, I think what it means, is a combination of two vowels.
Minkyong: So, the two vowels that we’re combining are ㅡ.
Keith: Which we just talked about before and what else? What’s the second vowel?
Minkyong: ㅣ.
Keith: So, this one requires us to know the vowel ㅡ to get the pronunciation right, right?
Minkyong: Yes, that’s right.
Keith: Well, I think we can compare it to the vowel or the diphthong ㅟ which is a combination of the vowels ㅜ and ㅣ.
Minkyong: And, this is the same as the English word “we.”
Keith: Right. But, this one has a different starting point. Minkyong, for the diphthong, I love saying that, or you’re going to find out I’m pronouncing this word wrong, just saying that… this whole lesson and everyone’s going to comment. All right. Anyway, for the diphthong ㅟ where does your mouth start?
Minkyong: So, when you say the vowel ㅜ, it’s the same starting position.
Keith: Right. So, your lips are a bit out. Kind of like you’re puckering up for a kiss. But, only a little one. ㅜ.
Minkyong: Ok. And your mouth ends the same as the vowel ㅣ. So, it goes from ㅜ to ㅣ. ㅜ, ㅣ,ㅜ, ㅣ, ㅜ, ㅣ, ㅟ.
Keith: Great. So, the diphthong that we’re looking at right now, the vowel combination, your mouth should end in the same place, but when you’re starting, your mouth should start the same as the vowel ㅡ.
Minkyong: Right. So, it will start from ㅡ and then end up at ㅣ. ㅡ, ㅣ, ㅡ, ㅣ, ㅢ, ㅢ.
Keith: And, just a really quick note. We did that really quickly just to show where you should start and end your mouth position, but actually it’s not really natural to pronounce the two parts separately and say ㅡ, ㅣ.
Minkyong: Yes, but to be honest, this sound is sometimes difficult to pronounce clearly even for native Korean people. So, a lot of times we just say ㅣ or ㅡ.
Keith: Right. But, since we’re working on perfect pronunciation, let’s give it a shot. Minkyong, how about you give us an example?
Minkyong: Ok. So, how about the word 의사?
Keith: But, to be honest, sometimes I just hear 으사.
Minkyong: Yes, but it’s in between. It’s 의사.
Keith: And, if you wanted to hear an isolated version of this double vowel, it’s such a bad term…
Minkyong: How about diphthong?
Keith: That was pretty good. You’re almost as smart as me. But, in any case, if you wanted to hear just this vowel, by itself, and all the vowels that we have in this lesson, the perfect place to stop by?
Minkyong: KoreanClass101.com.


Keith: Because there we have the vowels all there and you can listen to this over and over again in the premium learning center. And, remember, you can stop by KoreanClass101.com to pick up the review track which will have you practicing these and help you get your pronunciation perfected. Great lesson. It was a bit tough, but what did you think?
Minkyong: But I learned a lot. I liked this lesson.
Keith: But, you’re Korean.
Minkyong: Ok.
Keith: All right. So, that’s going to do it. See you in our last pronunciation lesson, Lesson #5.
Minkyong: 안녕히 계세요.
Keith: Bye bye.